Mayhem, Murder, and Madness Hit FST's Mainstage
May 17, 2023
There’s been a murder at a local hair salon, and YOU are a key witness!
This summer, Sarasota audiences will help detectives choose from a lineup of quirky suspects and decide “whodunit” at Shear Madness, an interactive comedic murder mystery. The longest-running play in American history, Shear Madness has thrilled more than 13 million people worldwide to date.
“It's a delightful comedy that has been wonderfully accepted by audiences around the world,” said FST's Producing Artistic Director Richard Hopkins. “When we produced the show over a decade ago, it was a huge hit. I always knew that I wanted to present the show again. The question was just when.”
Shear Madness is set in a local Sarasota hair salon, where the owner is an easily distracted, musical theatre aficionado, and the lead stylist, who sports blue hair and a flawless manicure, keeps the place afloat.
When the old lady living above the salon is found dead, two detectives arrive to piece together the clues behind the strange, scissor-stabbing homicide. With input from the audience, the two investigators spot the clues, question the suspects, and, eventually, determine who “offed” the lady living upstairs.
Adding to the fun of this delightful show, parts of the comedy are completely improvised by the actors, so no two performances of Shear Madness are ever the same.
“In some ways, Shear Madness defies explanation,” said Gil Brady, who plays Nick O’Brien, a local who stops by the salon for a shave. “It's a hilarious whodunit, a game, and a social experiment. There's even high drama once the murderer is discovered.”
Shear Madness was created in 1978 by Bruce Jordan who, at the time, had no idea that the show would be running consistently for more than 40 years.
Now, after directing The Play That Goes Wrong last winter, Jordan returns to FST to direct Shear Madness once more.
"It's a play totally about perception,” said Jordan. “In the same audience, two people can perceive one actor’s movements absolutely differently. And that leads to some comedy on its own.”
FST's production features several actors who have each been in multiple productions of the show over the course of their careers. Jordan Ahnquist, who plays flamboyant salon owner Tony Whitcomb, has starred in four previous productions of the play. Gil Brady has appeared in five.
Lisa McMillan, who played socialite Mrs. Shubert in FST’s 2011 production of Shear Madness, will reprise her role this summer, marking her seventh production of the popular whodunit.
"I keep coming back to this show because of the joy and laughter it can evoke," said McMillan. "I love how the improvisational aspects of the show makes it truly new every night."
Three other guest artists—Gina Milo, Shaun Memmel, and Luis Rivera—make their FST debuts this summer. Memmel and Rivera were both part of The Straz’s production of Shear Madness.
For many of these actors, Shear Madness not only keeps them on their toes when they take the stage, but it also fuels their creativity.
“Every live theatre event is different each night, but Shear Madness takes it to another level,” said Ahnquist. “The audience's involvement makes the show endlessly surprising. I love seeing attendees of all ages and demographics come together and laugh. It's why we do what we do.”
Shear Madness is now playing in FST's Gompertz Theatre. For tickets and more information, click here.